I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to this one. I’d been having knee problems for the previous few weeks so I hadn’t signed up in advance, preferring to see how I felt on the day.
Even though I’ve never needed extra motivation to get to a race, I prefer to sign up in advance as I feel it gives me that extra commitment to get the trainers on, even if bad weather is forecast! On race day it was a big thumbs up for the knee, and although the weather was bad, the forecast had it set to clear up in the afternoon (the race start was 19:00) so it was all systems go.
As dark clouds loomed overhead, I arrived at Charing School and a marshal directed me to drive directly onto the grounds, where parking had been provided on the main field. This was a nice touch, as being so close to the start/finish area made it easy to get ready and also drop bits and pieces into the car when necessary. I got out of the car to the distinct smell of deep heat and BBQ in the air, and I made my way over to the sign-up desk.
The process was very straight forward, filling out the standard entry form and handing over the on the day price of £17.00, for which I received my race number and timing chip. A big bowl of safety pins was available for those not bringing their own.
I’d arrived early so had plenty of time to relax, warm-up and check out the cake stall for potential re-fueling later! It was great to see lots of kids getting involved, with two different children’s races – one for the smaller children and another for the older ones.
Dodging the weather
After a period of thunder and lightening, and a few warm up runs around the field, it was time to line up for the start. The rain had stopped and everyone was raring to go. The race director explained the course, highlighting that although there are marshals on the course, the roads were not closed and we should stay alert, especially on some of the narrower country lanes. He also alluded to a slight hill at around 5K, although this was the first I’d heard about it!
The route took us out from the school and around a few of the village roads before leading out into the countryside. I planned to take the first 5K fairly steadily, and then start to increase pace for each 1K segment after that, although the splits had been decided on before I’d heard about the hill at 5K. No changes now though – stick to the plan.
It was fairly warm, but the recent rain had cleared the air and it was a glorious evening. When you’re running through country lanes, fields either side of you filled with horses and sheep meandering around and the sun getting low in the sky, running doesn’t get much better than this. Even being distracted by the views, I kept pace well and the first 4K flew by. Then I was waiting. I knew the hill was coming, I just didn’t know when it would. And then, after turning a few more corners, it appeared. In fact, I didn’t find it too bad and I started overtaking a few of the other runners on the lower sections. Nearing the top, some had chosen to start walking, but I kept going, and then overtook a few more as we carried on up to the water station located at the turn. The course then lead onto a section of the Pilgrims Way trail.
Hitting the trails
I’ve not had much experience of trail running, but I had my wits about me, dodging around the tree roots and ducking under a few of the over hanging branches. It was very hard to determine the elevation of this section, but looking at the stats it appears a little more up and down than I thought at the time. Shortly after clearing the trail the 8k board appeared and it was time to go for a strong finish. Helped along by the friendly marshal advising “it’s all down hill from here” I pushed on, overtaking a few more runners along the way. Contrary to the marshal’s advice, it wasn’t quite all downhill, with a slight incline at about 9.5K, but I didn’t care. He’d got me to give it a bit extra and I wasn’t stopping. After turning back into the school grounds, it was one more lap of the field and then across the finish for a new PB. Very happy with that!
A nice medal was provided for all finishers with a 2015 ribbon, along with water and Jaffa Cakes. After a short break to allow everyone to finish, a prize giving took place for all the speedy so-and-so’s. I must also give a mention to the post race burgers which were available for a very reasonable £1.50. A bargain!